- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 30, 2008

They came by Metro. They came by bus. Some were even brave enough to come by car. But they came, and for several hours Sunday night, Washington Nationals fans would have placed high on a list of the world’s most content people. A new ballpark. Opening Night. “You can’t beat it, it’s fantastic,” said Larry Caudle, an attorney from Alexandria, as he took in the view from the Red Loft bar beyond center field in Nationals Park. “I like everything to do with out here. The outfield to me standing out there and watching over it, it’s just beautiful to me. It’s got beautiful view lines.” Gates opened at 3:30 p.m., nearly five hours before Nationals pitcher Odalis Perez threw the first pitch. And fans came in droves, most of them through the center field gate at Half Street. Outside the stadium, the street was decorated with red-and-white balloon arches. After fans passed through security, the famous Racing Presidents characters and a jazz band greeted them. Many turned to the right to sample a half-smoke from Ben’s Chili Bowl. Others made a left to the Strike Zone entertainment area, while others headed up the steps to the Miller Light Beer pen or Red Loft bar. “Everyone’s so friendly,” said Roxane Adler Hickey, as she sipped a beer with her husband, Bob, inside the Red Porch restaurant. “When we came in the gate, actually, the women who were collecting the tickets were dancing and jumping around.” For most fans, this was no comparison to RFK Stadium, the Nationals’ previous home. “We were up in the caverns of RFK,” said Mike Johnson, a teacher from Waldorf, who attended the game with his wife, Courtney. “This is beautiful. It’s very bright.” The wide-open concourses, the massive scoreboard, the restaurants and food generally got rave reviews, though lines at the concession stands were often long. “I love the fact they have a lot of options,” Bob Hickey said. “When you’re focused on the field, it looks just the same,” said Caudle, who has season tickets in section 320. “But it’s the surroundings. You go to the bathroom, you go to the restaurants, that’s where it makes a difference. But it’s just going to be great. It’s going to be a great place.”

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